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Category Archives: Football

One of the players who impressed me (and there weren’t that many) during the recent FIFA World Cup was Japan’s centre back Tulio. Marcus Tulio Tanaka was born in Palmeira d’Oeste,Brazil in 1981.His father was a second generation Japanese-Brazilian and his mother Italian-Brazilian. Tulio moved to Japan at age 15 to complete his high school studies. After graduation in 2001, he joined the J.League club Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Tulio made his international début in 2006, and has played 43 times for Japan, scoring twice.
Tulio is the latest in a succession of Brazilian born players to represent Japan at the highest level. Some of these players have shared Tulio’s mixed heritage, whilst others have been Brazilians who became ‘naturalized’ in Japan.

In 1967 Nelson Yoshimura became the first Brazil born player to appear in the Japanese league. Nelson was born in São Paulo. In 1970 he became a Japanese citizen and took the name Dashiro Yoshimura. Dashiro went on to play international football.

George Yonashiro was born in São Paulo(1950). He obtained his Japanese citizenship in 1985 and played twice for Japan that year (no goals).
Ruy Ramos (born Ruy Gonçalves Ramos Sobrinho in Rio de Janeiro,1957) became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1989. He joined Yomiuri FC (now Tokyo Verdy) in 1977. He played 32 games for Japan between 1990 and 1995, scoring once.

Wagner Lopes (born Wágner Augusto Lopes,São Paulo, 1969) is a naturalised Japanese citizen.He was an important member of Japan’s 1998 FIFA World Cup squad, playing 20 internationals between 1997 and 1999, scoring five goals.Alex (born Alessandro dos Santos, Paraná,1977) played 82 times for Japan between 2002 and 2006, scoring seven goals.Alex moved to Japan at the age of sixteen. He became a Japanese citizen in 2001, and represented his new country at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Alex also played at the 2006 World Cup, including a match against Brazil.


Everywhere has its irremediable national catastrophe, something like a Hiroshima. Our catastrophe, our Hiroshima, was the defeat by Uruguay in 1950. – Nelson Rodrigues

Lev Yashin– Soviet Union (1954-1970) there have been few challengers to his status as the greatest of all goalkeepers, Yashin was consistent- brave, an athlete and a great stopper.

Cafu– Brazil (1990–2006)** hard to beat and very dangerous going forward.
Franz Beckenbauer– West Germany (1965–1977)* (captain)The Kaiser was solid in defence and his accomplishments as a midfielder led to him practically inventing the role of sweeper. Would win the ball and then set off on marauding runs- box to box.
Marcel Desailly – France (1993–2004)* strong, solid and stylish.
Paolo MaldiniItaly (1988–2002) the greatest of all left backs, period.

Didi– Brazil (1952–1962)** defined the modern midfielder as we know it- lethal from free kicks, combative, incisive passer.
Socrates– Brazil
(1979–1986) superb ball player and an ideal fulcrum.
Zinadine Zidane – France (1994–2006)* the paragon of modern midfield play, tough, skillful and a deadly finisher.

Mané Garrincha– Brazil (1955-1966)**Mané wasn’t always glued to the right touchline- he often cut into the inside right channel and could shoot from range or deliver very telling balls into the danger area.He could head the ball also.
Johann Cruyff– The Netherlands (1966–1978) could have picked him in a number of positions, his finishing alone justifies his place at the centre of a three man attack.
Pelé– Brazil- (1957–1971)*** his range of talents and prolific scoring record cannot be overlooked.

I’m shamelessly nostalgic , so I’ll take any criticisms of the ‘retro’ look of my 11 with a pinch of salt. At first I was concerned that it was a bit right sided (imagine having Cafu overlapping Garrincha!). There is also the argument that Garrincha wouldn’t do much tracking back. Cruyff was also accused of sometimes neglecting the defensive aspect of total football. But the midfield has a solid look to it! and the back four is a mobile and formidable unit. If Beckenbauer moved up into midfield with the ball he was usually moving forward with intent, so any gap left at the back was academic. As I’ve said before- in football there is no right or wrong- only opinion- it’s just a bit of fun.
Enjoy the World Cup!

I’m breaking my resolution to avoid posts on football during World Cup month: I’ll excuse myself by pointing out there are still 4 days to go…>One of the most futile, frustrating and yet inexhaustibly enjoyable pursuits open to the football lover is the selection of ‘all time greatest’ teams. In football there can be no right or wrong, only opinion, and it is impossible to select such teams given the changes that the game has undergone. Modern players are fitter, the ball is lighter, pitches better, they don’t have to put up with the rough treatment that wash dished out in the past. Modern defensive play is better organised and I believe the general level of individual skill is greater than ever.
I’m not going to commit myself to naming my all time 11 yet, but let’s look at some others.
In 1994 FIFA selected this team, which lined up in a 4-3-3 formation:

Lev Yashin- Soviet Union (1954-1970)
Djalma Santos- Brazil (1952–1968)**
Franz Beckenbauer- West Germany (1965–1977)*
Bobby Moore- England(1962–1973)*
Paul Breitner – West Germany (1971–1982)*
Johann Cruyff- The Netherlands (1966–1978)
Michel Platini – France (1976–1987)

Bobby Charlton – England (1958–1970)*
Mané Garrincha- Brazil (1955-1966)**
Ferenc Puskas – Hungary & Spain (1945–1956/1962)
Pelé- Brazil- (1957–1971)***

At the FIFA World Cup in France 1998 Mastercard got 250 journalists to select their Team of the Century.Again the formation was 4-3-3:

Carlos Alberto Torres- Brazil (1964-1977) *
Nilton Santos- Brazil (1949-1963) **

Alfredo di Stefano – Argentina, Columbia, Spain (1947–1949/1949–1954/1954–1962)
Mané Garrincha
Diego Maradona- Argentina (1977–1994)*

In the build up to the 2002 World Cup selected the following on the basis of online voting by fans:

Paolo MaldiniItaly (1988–2002)
Roberto CarlosBrazil (1992–2006) *
Roberto BaggioItaly (1988–2004)
Zinadine Zidane – France (1994–2006)*
Romario – Brazil (1987–2005)*


Unlike the previous selections, which were quite logical and balanced, this is a crazy set up that would never work in reality. 3-4-3
3 at the back- Maldini on the right? Roberto Carlos
was strong going forward but couldn’t defend, Beckenbauer buried in the middle of a 3 man defence?
4 number 10’s in midfield-
11 great players, but not really a team.
Anyway- Joao Kartoshka will reveal his all time 11 in the near future…

So, back in October, we undertook a journey through the history of the World Cup and have arrived at the present day. 18 tournaments, 4 continents- 7 different winners. There have been unexpected victors (1950, 1954), dubious victors (1938, 1966, 1974), but never any real surprises. In the finals in which the best teams did not win (1954, 1974) they were not beaten by rank outsiders, and even in the tournament in which the best* two sides were not in the final (1982) it was still competed by two leading nations.

*the world cup is actually a football fair; not a proper championship… more than half the matches are knockout ties, anything is possible. Merit doesn’t count.Socrates on Spain 1982, interviewed in FourFourTwo (2010).

So- players to watch?

Eight months ago I’d have said Arshavin(Russia), Cambiasso(Argentina), Ronaldihno (Brazil), but they won’t be there…
Messi (Argentina), Ronaldo (Portugal), Ribery(France), Drogba(
Côte d’Ivoire), Villa, Xavi(Spain), Rooney(England) of course, but expect a no nonsense victory based on solid defence and counter-attack from Brazil (probably against Spain in the final).

A few players have appeared in more than one World Cup Final (Luis Monti , as we have seen, for two different countries), and Zinadine Zidane is not alone in having scored in more than one final (Vava,Pele,Breitner), but Zidane perhaps, has left an indelible mark on two finals in a way that not even the genius of Pele in 1958 and 1970 achieved.
In 1998 Zidane stepped into the void temporarily vacated by the incapacitated Ronaldo . In 2006 he was arguably the greatest player in the World- in the final he opened the scoring with a penalty and then in extra time planted his head firmly into the chest of Materazzi and saw red.

It was an ill tempered tournament-345 yellow cards and 28 red cards were shown, with Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handing out 16 yellow and 4 red cards in the round of 16 match between Portugal and the Netherlands. English referee Graham Poll got in on the act by mistakenly showing three yellow cards to Croatia’s Josip Šimunić in the match against Australia. Mr Poll had a great excuse for his error- when booking Šimunić for the second time he marked him down as Australia #3 because of his Australian accent (Šimunić was born in Canberra).
Italy were very fortunate to progress against Australia via a dubious late penalty.
When I first saw Portugal’s Maniche I thought that he would soon take his place amongst the all time greats, but it was not to be, although he was one of the outstanding players of 2006.
Argentina’s Esteban Cambiasso scored one of the greatest ever World Cup goals…following a 25 pass move against Serbia Montenegro.

The details of the Final are overshadowed in the memory by Zidane’s sending off- Italy triumphed on penalties- Trezeguet hitting the bar with France’s second kick whilst the Italians got five out of five past Barthez.

Ronaldo’s glory was delayed by 4 years. After the fiasco of 1998 he ended the 2002 tournament as a world champion, and with the Golden Boot for his 8 goals, including 2 in the final, which, remarkably, was the first ever meeting between Germany and Brazil in the history of the World Cup.

France’s defence of the title was a disaster as they finished winless (this was also the last time that the champions enjoyed automatic qualification).
It was a happy goodbye to golden goals- 3 were scored.
Firsts: this was the first World Cup to be held in Asia, and the first joint hosting (FIFA will not repeat the joint hosting experiment,and both countries are bidding to host future tournaments individually).
Korea republic will always appear to have been the surprise package, finishing 4th, but they benefitted from a number of outrageous refereeing decisions on their way. Turkey acquitted themselves very well to finish 3rd, and after just 11 seconds of the 3rd place match Hakan Şükür registered the fastest ever World Cup goal .
Oliver Kahn became the first goalkeeper to be awarded the Balon D’or as most valuable player, but ironically his fumble of Rivaldo’s shot in the final gifted Ronaldo the opener. Germany only conceded 3 goals in the whole tournament.
David Beckham enjoyed some redemption when his penalty beat old rivals Argentina 1-0 in the group stage.
Ronaldo took his place in the history books with a truly bizarre haircut straight out of Tod Browning’s Freaks, the result of his 2 yr old son Ronald’s inability to distinguish between his father and teammate Roberto Carlos.

Zoot alors! Trois zero! Apparently several children were christened
Trois Zero in the wake of France’s first World Cup triumph. Pele had predicted that an African team would win the World Cup before 2000- Nigeria, the only African side to reach the knockout phase were swept aside by Denmark. But there was an African flavour to the victors- Marcel Desailly born in Accra,Patrick Vieira in Dakar and Zinedine Zidane of course had Algerian parents.
The finals were expanded from 24 to 32 teams. Laurent Blanc of France scored the first Golden Goal in World Cup history as the hosts beat Paraguay 1-0.

David Beckham, who within a few years was the darling of the media and possibly the most instantly recognisable footballer in the world, was far from flavour of the month.Having being sent off after kicking Diego Simeone in England’s defeat against Argentina, Beckham became a hate figure.
Having overcome a muscular Croatian side in the semi final the French took the precaution of poisoning Ronaldo in the lead up to the final.

Ronaldo was present at the final but could hardly be said to have played- similarly his teammates were visibly dispirited following his mysterious brush with death.

France were without their captain, Laurent BlancSlaven Bilic having engineered his dismissal in the semi with some hideous simulation.
France had to survive the last 20 minutes of the final with only 10 men with the dismissal of Marcel Desailly, by then they were 2 goals up and still controlled the match.

So the last World Cup of the 20th century, the 16th edition, saw the seventh nation to claim the title- the first ‘new’ winners for 20 years.

The 1994 World Cup Finals started and ended with dreadful penalties- the first was taken by soul diva Diana Ross at the opening ceremony, the last by Roberto Baggio in the final itself. Both sailed harmlessly wide of their target.A great tournament but a not so great final.
141 goals were scored at an average of 2.7 per match, but none in the final for the only time in World Cup history.
Bigger stadiums allowed an average attendance of 69,000, breaking records that had stood since 1950. The total attendance of almost 3.6 million remains the highest in World Cup history.
Oleg Salenko of Russia became the first player to score five goals in a single World Cup match as Russia ran out 6–1 winners against Cameroon.
Only 3 of the 15 knockout phase matches went to penalties- sadly the final was one of them.
Themed goal celebrations appeared when Bebeto marked the birth of his baby with his ‘cradle’ celebration, (along with Romário and Mazinho) in the game against the Netherlands. The Brazil players also made a memorable spectacle when they took to the pitch hand in hand.
The U.S.A v Switzerland match in the Pontiac Silverdome was the first to be played indoors in World Cup history.
Before the tournament Pele predicted that Columbia would win the World Cup , but they were a waning side plagued by domestic problems and went out at the first stage.
Maradonna made his final World Cup appearance- suspended for drug misuse he left fans with memories of outstanding brilliance and plenty of controversy.

An iconic image, taken from a blimp above the stadium, Taffarel ecstatic, Baggio despondent.

I would like to dedicate this post to Niall, whose generous praise is greatly appreciated.

A happy life?
Born in a favela in Rio in 1937, Elza was raped when she was 12. Because she became pregnant she had to marry the man who raped her. Her first three children died as newborns, but she was a mother of four by the age of 25. Elza had her first taste of success on Ary Barroso’s radio show when she was still in her teens. Soares became popular with her first single Se Acaso Você Chegasse, on which she sang Louis Armstrong style scat with her trademark husky voice, combining samba and jazz .
After finishing her second LP, A Bossa Negra, Elza went to Chile to represent Brazil in the festival that accompanied the 1962 FIFA World Cup. It was there that she met Mané Garrincha. Of course, we’ve had posts on Mané Garrincha (1933-1983) here before, and there will be more in the the future- the most talented individual ever to play football- as Alex Bellos wrote: Pelé was admired, Garrincha was adored.

According to tradition Elza entered the dressing room where the players were celebrating and embraced the naked Mané, who had made a tremendous contribution to Brazil’s success throughout the tournament.

At the time Mané still lived in the same abject style as when he had been a textile worker. He was married to Nair Marques (married in 1952, they divorced in 1965), a factory worker from Pau Grande with whom he had eight daughters. He also fathered two children with another Pau Grande girl, Iraci, whom he ‘kept’ in Rio, as well as a son by a Swedish girl he had met whilst on tour with Botafogo. By the time of his death he had fathered at least 14 children.
Mané and Elza married in 1966; as Elza had also been married before, the Brazilian press were critical of the marriage.
The couple were harassed by neighbours in the upmarket Rio suburb where they lived; when they visited Pau Grande they were attacked. The public resented the apparent wordly influence that Elza exerted over Mané- for example he began to negotiate more just contracts with his club. In the past he had been content to sign blank contracts and allowed his earnings to rot away in drawers in his house. As Mané’s famously crooked legs began to give out and he played less he succumbed to alcoholism, and their relationship became increasingly stormy. Shortly after the 1966 World Cup Mané crashed his car, killing Elza’s mother. His record with cars was not good- he had previously run over his father and Elza had had some teeth smashed out in another prang* . Mané was also sexually insatiable, and had affairs. His virility, and his large penis, were the stuff of legend- in 1959 a song in his praise was suppressed because the line Mané, who was born in Pau Grande sounded very much like Mané, who was born with a pau grande, which is slang for big dick.Ruy Castro, his biographer was sued by members of Mané’s family for asserting that his manhood was 25cm- the judge booted the case out- how could it be libel to say that a Brazilian man was well hung? Strangely no one took offence at Castro’s revelation that Mané’s earliest sexual experience had been with a goat…apparently not unusual in Pau Grande in those days.
Mané and Elza separated in 1977, when she left him after he struck her. (In the notorious psychometric testing prior to the 1958 World Cup Mané had scored zero for aggression).

Elza Soares remains active in the world of music, and she is not afraid to move with the times. There are a number of her records available to download at Loronix, from the early jazz-samba through to the samba-soul sound of the 1970’s.In 2000 the BBC gave her a Singer of the Century award.
Here is 2004’s Vivo Feliz album , which mixes samba and bossa with modern electronic music and effects, and features collaborations with a number of leading techno/hip-hop/ artists (I’m never to sure of the terminology for the modern stuff. Anyway- it’s a great sound).
Here’s the link:

* this bad luck with cars would haunt the family into the next generation-
In 1985 Mané and Elza’s son Garrinchinha died in an auto crash on the same stretch of road on which Elza’s mother had died. His son (with Iraci) Nenem, who played for Fulminense, died in a car crash in 1992. His grandson was run over and killed in Pau Grande in 2001.

The following books were invaluable in the preparation of this post:
Estrela Solitária – Ruy Castro
Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life -Alex Bellos